The well known Mediterranean Thyme (Maltese: Sagħtar) is common on our Islands and is usually found in areas of rocky steppes or garigues. This fragrant shrub, which is native of the Mediterranean region - including Malta - is known by the scientific name of Thymus capitatus.
The Mediterranean Thyme is a small, aromatic perennial herb which may grow to a height of 50cm or more. This plant is much branched having erect or ascending branches bearing auxiliary leaf-clusters. Its linear and rather fleshy leaves are covered with rough hairs and dotted with glands which are highly fragrant. In the late spring, the pink to bluish small flowers are borne in clusters at the end of the stems. Its petals are fused to form a cone-like inflorescence which is dorsally flattened and bearing protruding stamens.
The Mediterranean Thyme is particularly important for bees as it provides them with their principal nutrients and Malta is particularly famous for the honey originating from this shrub. Additionally, the Mediterranean Thyme is also notable for attracting various species of butterflies.
In the past this shrub was on the decline due to its over collection for use as fire-wood and unfortunately this practice was severely affecting local apiculture. However since 1932, local legislation has been in place to protect this herb from its over exploitation and today the Mediterranean Thyme is considered to be a common shrub. Nevertheless, since this shrub is one of the dominant species of an important type of garigue MEPA is helping to safeguard this plant through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation.